What I Read … Part 8 – Farjeon, Burke, Himes, and others

for earlier parts in this “What I Read” series, scroll down to previous posts
or use the search box for “what I read”

I think we’re only one – maybe two – of these summaries, and I’ll be current. Here we go.

Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson Farjeon – On a fine autumn weekend Lord Aveling hosts a hunting party at his country house, Bragley Court. Among the guests are an actress, a journalist, an artist and a mystery novelist. The unlucky thirteenth is John Foss, injured at the local train station and brought to the house to recuperate. Soon events take a sinister turn when a painting is mutilated, a dog stabbed, and a man strangled. Death strikes more than one of the house guests, and the police are called. Classic golden age country house mystery. I enjoyed it.

Semiosis by Sue Burke – An interesting SF novel. “In the 2060s, a group leaves Earth to create a new, peaceful society. They arrive 158 years later on a planet they name Pax. The botanist, Octavio, knows that planting seeds from Earth, without symbiotic microorganisms in the soil, would be futile, but Pax is already teeming with plants. He tests a persimmon-like fruit growing on snow-white vines and finds it safe to eat—but later, three Pacifists die after eating the same fruit from a different vine that’s now, somehow, poisonous. The deadly crop, he discovers, comes from an identical snow vine that’s competing for space with the vines closer to the colonists. He knows the chemical alteration is too fast to be mere ecological adjustment, and when the deadly vine changes its chemistry again to destroy a field of grain the colonists planted, Octavio begins to understand that the poisonous vine sees them as a threat. The plants of Pax are able to think and plan ahead—and the colonists must learn to communicate with them in order to survive.” – Kirkus

Cotton Comes to Harlem by Chester Himes – This is considered a classic, featuring Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones in a war against scams and racism in Harlem. “Reverend” Deke O’Malley, a conman, is selling shares at a Harlem rally, for the purchase of a Back-to-Africa movement ship to be called The Black Beauty. During the rally, several masked gunman jump out of a meat truck and steal $87,000 in donated cash from the back of an armored car. Two Harlem detectives, Gravedigger Jones and “Coffin” Ed Johnson chase the car, and a bale of cotton falls out of the vehicle, unremarked at the time. Uncle Budd, a scavenger, finds the bale of cotton and sells it for $25 to a junk dealer, not knowing the money is hidden inside. This is rough, tough cop fiction.

Origin by Dan Brown – I’ve liked some of Brown’s books, and others have left me wondering why I spent the time. This one falls somewhere in between, as I liked most of it, but was dissatisfied with some of the choices Brown made late in the book in wrapping things up. Still,  in spite of criticism from many, I find his books readable and a nice break from tough mysteries or war in space.

The Complete Psychotecnic League, Volume 1 by Poul Anderson – And speaking of war in space, this is the first volume in the series presenting the complete stories in Anderson’s Psychotecnic League history. Though not my favorite set of his works, these are good solid stories. I especially liked “The Big Rain”, which I remembered reading in Astounding Science Fiction when it was a cover story.

Trouble in Nuala by Harriet Steel – I’m not sure how I came across this cozy series by Steel, this being the first book, but I got it for Kindle for next to nothing and found it to be a quick read, light, interesting setting of Nuala, Ceylon in the 1930s.

Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi – I was in the mood to re-read these, the first of the Old Man’s War series. In thinking they were the better of the series, and better than his more recent books, I was right.

The Long Arm of the Law edited by Martin Edwards – British Library Crime Classics are a series of novels and short story anthologies by golden and sometimes silver age authors. They are published by Poisoned Pen Press here in the U. S. and I think I’ve gotten just about every one of them.

In this one, the stories are, as the cover states, “classic police stories”, and they’re good ones. I had read a couple in other anthologies over the years, but most were new to me.

That brings us to the middle of March. Next time, Raoul Whitfield, maybe some muscle car stuff, some Sherlock Holmes stories and a novel by John Crowley, which will bring us to the middle of April. Almost caught up!

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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11 Responses to What I Read … Part 8 – Farjeon, Burke, Himes, and others

  1. Steve Oerkfitz says:

    Have to agree with you on the Scalzi. The Sue Burke sounds interesting. I have found Dan Brown unreadable. Just a bad writer. Read all of Himes books a long time ago and enjoyed them. Was a decent movie too.

  2. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Another nice mix. I’ve read all of the Edwards-edited short story collections. I always like the idea – and the look – of the reprinted Golden Age British mysteries, but the only Farjeon I’ve read has been a few short stories. I tried Da Vinci Code and thought it was horribly written. Couldn’t get through it. Of course I’ve read Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series, as well as the large majority of his other books. Even Jackie (who rarely reads SF) is reading them (if only once in a while).

  3. Jerry House says:

    Rick, I have to agree with Steve and Jeff that Dan Brown writes awful books –and that’s the kindest thing I can say about them.

    The rest of your reading sounds great: Himes, Anderson, Early Scalzi, Martin Edwards’ anthology…it’s hard to go wrong.

  4. I agree with Steve, Jeff, and Jerry. Dan Brown’s writing is awful. Yet his books sell millions of copies. Go figure. The third volume of Poul Anderson’s PYSCHOTECHNIC series comes out next month.

  5. So yes, you all agree that I’m an idiot for reading Dan Brown. OK, I get it.

  6. tracybham says:

    I did enjoy those first two books in the Old Man’s War series. Have the third one but haven’t read it yet. I haven’t read anything by Farjeon, and Thirteen Guests sounds like the place to start. I like country house mysteries.

  7. Matt Paust says:

    Another interesting set. Last week I read Canoeing with the Crees, and enjoyed it much. Thanks for acquainting me with it!

  8. Charles Gramlich says:

    I definitely need to read Old Man’s war. I’ve heard great things about it

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